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Sam Mason's Tailor has Arrived


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Very sad (if not unexpected) news. Even for those people who may not have loved the place, New York has lost a restaurant for which there is no equivalent, and is the worse for it. For those of us who were big fans, it's an even bigger loss. Please keep us posted on any upcoming ventures, chef, as we'll be eager to be first in the door...

Cheers!

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a shame. An incredibly talented chef was involved with a potentially groundbreaking project that combined a new food dynamic with great cocktails. Unfortunately, it did not work.

What went wrong? Was it the constant blog hype? Did it raise expectations to an unreasonable level? Did the modern public not 'get it?' Were the landlord and investors quick to throw in the towel?

I do not know what happened. Everything I mentioned was for the purposes of discussion only. What do you think happened?

--W

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New York has yet to embrace "molecular" or "progressive" or whatever-you-want-to-call-it gastronomy. In some ways, this City is pretty conservative. Think about it this: this is the opposite of comfort food (the big general trend).

The location didn't help.

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I don't think that is the answer, Sneak. Mason's food at Tailor was pretty accessible and delicious. I really think the early hype and pr followed by months & months of delays really took the wind out of their sails once they finally did open and they never really got the "buzz" that they deserved. Even the location wasn't really that bad, even if it wasn't the absolute best location.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think a combination of all three of the last three posts in the thread is probably the most accurate way to look at it. Certainly the economy and the ridiculous delays in opening were major factors, but Sneak is totally correct that NY has been much less receptive to modern/molecular cooking than many other major US cities. WD-50 is the only place to make a long go of it here to date. And quite a few have failed. While it's easy to say that the flavors were accessible, that doesn't change the fact that the techniques were "science-y" and many flavor combinations very unexpected to traditional palates. Molecular cuisine done well is just as delicious as any other type of cuisine, but that doesn't mean everyone accepts it. As for the location, while it' wasn't the middle of nowhere, it was a block with essentially no foot traffic/walk-in potential, and that part of Soho is certainly not a neighborhood on the rise in terms of dining. Lethal for a place that depended on a strong bar business as well as regular visitors to the dining room.

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As for the location, while it' wasn't the middle of nowhere, it was a block with essentially no foot traffic/walk-in potential, and that part of Soho is certainly not a neighborhood on the rise in terms of dining. Lethal for a place that depended on a strong bar business as well as regular visitors to the dining room.

That is probably the one explanation we can discount: the bar was the only successful thing at Tailor, and the only part of it that is still open.

When a restaurant becomes known as a dining destination, the block it is on is of relatively little importance. Not just the block, but actually the entire neighborhood where WD~50 is located, was unknown as a dining destination not that long ago. If your restaurant is important enough, people will find it. This was never the type of restaurant, regardless of its location, that was going to do much walk-in business.

In its early days, the dining room at Tailor was reliably full. Restaurants survive when a sufficient quantity of the early visitors are motivated to become regulars, and to recommend it to their friends. Tailor failed because not enough people felt the urge to do so. It didn't help that practically all of the reviews were middling to negative.

The original menu at Tailor was a mistake. It didn't have enough savory courses, and some of the dishes were awfully expensive in relation to the portion sizes. Mason eventually adjusted, but the reviews were in by then. I do agree with an earlier poster that the much-delayed opening and the early hype (fueled by Mason himself) were unhelpful.

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As for the location, while it' wasn't the middle of nowhere, it was a block with essentially no foot traffic/walk-in potential, and that part of Soho is certainly not a neighborhood on the rise in terms of dining. Lethal for a place that depended on a strong bar business as well as regular visitors to the dining room.

That is probably the one explanation we can discount: the bar was the only successful thing at Tailor, and the only part of it that is still open.

When a restaurant becomes known as a dining destination, the block it is on is of relatively little importance. Not just the block, but actually the entire neighborhood where WD~50 is located, was unknown as a dining destination not that long ago. If your restaurant is important enough, people will find it. This was never the type of restaurant, regardless of its location, that was going to do much walk-in business.

In its early days, the dining room at Tailor was reliably full. Restaurants survive when a sufficient quantity of the early visitors are motivated to become regulars, and to recommend it to their friends. Tailor failed because not enough people felt the urge to do so. It didn't help that practically all of the reviews were middling to negative.

The original menu at Tailor was a mistake. It didn't have enough savory courses, and some of the dishes were awfully expensive in relation to the portion sizes. Mason eventually adjusted, but the reviews were in by then. I do agree with an earlier poster that the much-delayed opening and the early hype (fueled by Mason himself) were unhelpful.

My reference to "bar business" was probably a bit unclear, but I was referring to the old restaurant theory that when you open a new dining venue, you want to fill the restaurant's bar with regulars who also dine there. A full bar then gives the restaurant additional food business under that model and makes it feel like it's bustling. Tailor didn't do that. The thing with Tailor's bar is that it was very separate from the restaurant, both physically and in terms of clientele. They were essentially two separate venues. Sure, there was a certain number of "cocktailians" who went to the bar for the drinks, but at its peak, the bar's crowd was totally separate from the restaurant's in terms of makeup, and was driven mainly by hipness rather than epicurean interest. In fact, many of the foodie types who came just for drinks still had them in the dining room and not the bar. Like any new nightlife venue, once the bar downstairs lost its status as the new place, it also lost some of its energy and business. And since it never really connected much with the restaurant, it didn't help that side. Sure, they kept it open, but that's because they could still get some revenue coming in, while laying out less in terms of costs (and without a chef, host, and numerous support staff). Even a successful restaurant makes a large percentage of its money via alcohol, and it's a lot easier to keep the bar open with one or two less-skilled employees stirring up the existing formulas than it is to keep a whole dining room running. After the dining room closed, they typically only had one or two people running the bar max. And it certainly hadn't been profitable for a long time...it was just a way to stem the losses and get a trickle of money coming in.

What you say about dining destinations is mostly true, but in the current economy maybe a bit less so. While WD-50 is a good example, they're doing less well now than they had been, too. Another thing to keep in mind is that Soho at the time of Tailor's opening was essentially a neighborhood on the way down, while the part of the LES surrounding Clinton Street when WD-50 opened was a neighborhood on the way up. Though it wasn't rife with food options for too long before the opening, it had already been home to several restaurants even on that one block. If the block where a restaurant is located really didn't matter, then I don't think we would have seen The John Dory close. It got mostly good/great reviews and was very busy to start with, yet its eventual closing was also blamed on neighborhood traffic. While a high end restaurant may lure people from further away, something at Tailor's price point and level of ambition is less likely to, unless it's one of a few screaming hot places in town. And as we all have said, they lost the chance to be that when all the delays hit.

You make excellent points about the early mixed reviews and the time it took to make necessary adjustments to the menu structure. Let's hope things work out better for Sam next time. And let's also hope that NY makes more room in its heart for "modern" cooking.

Edited by LPShanet (log)
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If the block where a restaurant is located really didn't matter, then I don't think we would have seen The John Dory close. It got mostly good/great reviews and was very busy to start with, yet its eventual closing was also blamed on neighborhood traffic. While a high end restaurant may lure people from further away, something at Tailor's price point and level of ambition is less likely to, unless it's one of a few screaming hot places in town.

I am not saying that the block never matters, only that it didn't matter for this type of place.

The John Dory's problem was not the block, but the neighborhood, and neighborhoods definitely matter. The Dory's economics required a lunch trade, and that area doesn't get much traffic at lunch, because it's too far away from anything else. Any block in that area would have had the same problem.

The avant-garde cuisine served at Tailor, regardless of price point and level of ambition, was never going to be "neighborhood food." It was never going to be a place where people just dropped in on a whim. That's why the block, in this case, did not matter. The people who dine at that kind of restaurant are those who've planned to go there, and once you've made a plan, a block here or there doesn't influence the decision very much.

The neighborhood, of course, does matter: Tailor on the Upper East Side would have been ludicrous.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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The neighborhood, of course, does matter: Tailor on the Upper East Side would have been ludicrous.

Sadly, Soho is pretty ludicrous, too, these days. There hasn't been an important new dining destination in that 'hood, other than Boqueria.

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The neighborhood, of course, does matter: Tailor on the Upper East Side would have been ludicrous.

Sadly, Soho is pretty ludicrous, too, these days. There hasn't been an important new dining destination in that 'hood, other than Boqueria.

That may very well be no more than coincidence. Tailor's bad reviews weren't because it was in Soho; they were because of Mason's mistakes. Given that the bar was consistently busy, there was clearly no inherent obstacle to attracting patronage to that area.

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The neighborhood, of course, does matter: Tailor on the Upper East Side would have been ludicrous.

Sadly, Soho is pretty ludicrous, too, these days. There hasn't been an important new dining destination in that 'hood, other than Boqueria.

That may very well be no more than coincidence. Tailor's bad reviews weren't because it was in Soho; they were because of Mason's mistakes. Given that the bar was consistently busy, there was clearly no inherent obstacle to attracting patronage to that area.

What were Masons mistakes???

Have you ever opened a restaurant , with partners?

It's fucking hard, they promise you everything and then you're lucky to get a crumb.

I'm talking about the concept as originally conceived.

If he hadn't served too small a portion and served a big one he would have been screwed.

Wasn't the idea to be more like tapas?

All of this criticism, etc..

Wish him better luck next time or hire out as a consultant ( maybe you are?).

2317/5000

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What were Masons mistakes???

Sneakeater is absolutely right about over-hyping the opening. Mason all-but admitted that original menu was wrong, which is why it was overhauled.

Have you ever opened a restaurant , with partners?

I haven't, but that's irrelevant. I haven't coached football either, but when Notre Dame goes 6–6, I know that something is wrong (they just fired their coach).

Wish him better luck next time....

I do wish him better luck next time. As I've stated upthread (more than once, I believe), I liked the place. But there weren't enough of me.

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His big mistake was blogging the opening process. Too much hype. It simultaneously raised expectations exactly when he should have wanted to keep them down, and turned people off as overpublicizing.

How was the "oft-mentioned mistake' of doing "the launch" blog a mistake????

It was interesting to people who weren't aware of what goes into opening a place, I mean, he showed too much tatoo?

It took a super long time to open, something I'm sure all were overjoyed about...

It took over a year and and half for Mendes to get his place opened and I seriously doubt any chef in those pre Tailor times would have told New York Magazine " hmmmm, blog the launch of my new restaurant? I don't know, might piss everyone off..."

C'mon...

I think people talking shit hurt the opening more then the so called over publicizing ...

2317/5000

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Exactly. It took Mendes over a year and a half to get Aldea open -- a time period during which Mendes wasn't in my face constantly reminding me about the delay to the point where he and his restaurant became something of a media joke.

You're right that nobody had tried the blog thing before so it wasn't clear that it was a bad idea. But it was.

I think part of the problem is that you're naturally sympathetic and interested as an industry insider. But people who aren't colleagues viewed it differently. I think it's hard to deny that it had a bad effect on Tailor.

And like oakapple, I was a fan. I went there pretty frequently.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Exactly. It took Mendes over a year and a half to get Aldea open -- a time period during which Mendes wasn't in my face constantly reminding me about the delay to the point where he and his restaurant became something of a media joke.

You're right that nobody had tried the blog thing before so it wasn't clear that it was a bad idea. But it was.

I think part of the problem is that you're naturally sympathetic and interested as an industry insider. But people who aren't colleagues viewed it differently. I think it's hard to deny that it had a bad effect on Tailor.

And like oakapple, I was a fan. I went there pretty frequently.

I didn't think I had a "problem".

I get as sick as anyone does of reading about certain people.

Keller.

Know he's a God, too bad Williams and Sonoma is his Shrine now.

But that's me.

Mason was in a blog that probably contracted for a certain amount of time.

If people didn't like it/hated it/ they should have turned the page.

I don't think listening to the media either as a darling or a joke gets one too much.

Perhaps he had some crummy advice, either from partners, publicists or both.

Bad break.

These people bust their balls to do something most of us can't do.

Let's just get on with it.

Edited by tan319 (log)

2317/5000

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We can surmise all we want about what went wrong at Tailor. I believe that those discussing it here are doing so because they care. Tailor going down has disappointed all of us. I liked Tailor a lot. I enjoyed the food and the bar. While we are guessing, hopefully Sam has learned what the problems were and whatever his next venture is, he can be fully creative and financially successful. He and we deserve it!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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